Knesset chaos as proposed bill turns into shouting match
Rosin said having the committee draft a bill suggested by the prime minister turns the panel into a puppet show, using the rules of democracy to harm anyone who doesn't agree with the government. (AFP/Eric Feferberg)
A Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee meeting on a proposal to allow 90 MKs to vote out a colleague turned into an hour-long shouting match with no legislative progress on Wednesday.
"A democratic state has red lines, and whoever crosses them cannot be here," Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said at the end of the meeting.
"This proposal is crossing a red line," MK Revital Swid (Zionist Unon) responded.
The initiative, originally proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came in response to Joint List MKs Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas meeting with the families of terrorists' whose bodies are being held by Israeli authorities because the families refuse to avoid incitement at their funerals. The legislators also took part in a moment of silence for Palestinian "martyrs" during the meeting. The Knesset Ethics Committee suspended the MKs from all parliamentary activities except voting, and the police are examining whether there was any criminal activity.
No bill has been submitted allowing 90 MKs to vote out another one, but a draft was authorized by coalition faction leaders that would have inappropriate behavior for a parliamentarian be grounds to do so. On Tuesday, Bayit Yehudi called for the scope of the bill to be narrowed to violations of article 7a of Basic Law: Knesset, which states anyone who rejects Israel as a Jewish and democratic state or supports or incites to terror, armed conflict against Israel or racism, among other reasons, cannot run for a seat in the Knesset.
Slomiansky planned to have the Constitution Committee work on drafting the bill Wednesday, but did not get anywhere, because of incessant shouting.
MKs Swid, Michal Rosin (Meretz) and Oren Hazan (Likud) were removed from the meeting.
Rosin said having the committee draft a bill suggested by the prime minister turns the panel into a puppet show, using the rules of democracy to harm anyone who doesn't agree with the government.
"You're being used to pass this law, which shouldn't even be discussed," MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) told Slomiansky. "This cannot become part of Israel's law books."
Hazan called the MKs opposing the bill "haters of Israel."
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) warned Hazan that after the Arab MKs, he will be the bill's next target. The Likud MK responded that he is not worried about his post-parliamentary prospects.
Also Wednesday, the Knesset Ethics Committee detailed its decision to suspend MKs Zoabi and Ghattas for four months and Zahalka, who had fewer prior offenses, for two months from the Knesset, except for voting.
Out of nearly 500 complaints it received, the committee chose to quote one from Micah Lakin Avni, whose father Richard Lakin was murdered by a terrorist whose father led the meeting with the Balad MKs.
Lakin Avni said he was shocked to hear MKs met with the terrorist's father "without hearing a word of regret about his son's actions."
"When MKs meet with terrorists' families and even promise to act on their behalf and call murderers 'martyrs,' it can invite their voters to commit similar crimes. This meeting, beyond being harmful and outrageous, only distances us from the dream of coexistence my father dreamt for so many years," Lakin Avni wrote.
The MKs from Balad, one of the parties making up the Joint List, responded that the meeting was only meant to help the families get the bodies back, and the fact that they immediately after brought the information to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan proves as much.
They also said the meeting was not in sympathy for terrorism, pointing out that it took place in a cultural center and not in someone's home or mourning tent. The moment of silence, the Balad MKs explained, was a Palestinian tradition to stand and read a passage from the Koran called Sura al-Fatiha in memory of all fallen Palestinians.
The Ethics Committee wrote that it does not have a problem with the MKs connecting the families to the authorities on the matter of returning the bodies, but that the problem is with the moment of silence and publicizing the event on their party's Facebook page.
"More than once the committee has differentiated between the broad political and ideological freedom of expression given to MKs, even when their stances are very far from the consensus, and identifying with and encouraging acts of terror against the state and its citizens," the committee wrote. "However, in this case, the legitimate activity was accompanied by actions that most members of the committee finds not to be legitimate at all and crosses the line between parliamentary and humanitarian activity and actions that encourage and support acts of terror."
The committee said that the MKs "stood in a moment of silence at a time when there are daily terrorist attacks and attempts against citizens of the state...Jews and Arabs.
"Most members of the committee thought that participating in such a ceremonial act at this time and publicizing it on the faction's website could be interpreted as legitimizing terror and continued bloodshed," they stated.
by Lahav Harkov